EVE Evolved: War declarations need revamped for the citadel era

It’s a universally accepted fact in EVE Online that you’re never truly safe from attack. Low-security space is littered with pirates looking for an easy kill, nullsec alliances respond to invasion of their territory with overwhelming force, and cloaked ships could lurk around every wormhole. Even in the friendliest parts of high-security space, you can still be blown up by a squad of suicide gankers or find yourself the target of a highsec war declaration. Wardecs are intended to allow player-run corporations to fight with each other in highsec without interference from the police, but over EVE‘s entire lifetime they’ve been almost exclusively used to grief and harass small corporations.

Some wardec alliances log literally thousands of wars per year, with almost all of them being against small industrial and social corporations whose members have no intention of fighting back. The aggressors typically just camp trade hub such as Jita 4-4 and declare war on any corp caught hauling valuables through the system, turning a potential sandbox content-generator into a boring pay-to-grief mechanic. With the landscape of EVE being transformed by player-owned citadels and a dynamic PvE revolution on the horizon, I think the time is right to revamp war declarations for the new citadel era. The current wardec system isn’t fit for purpose, and we deserve something more engaging.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I give some thoughts on the wardec problem, a suggestion on how they could be revamped to fit the new citadel era, and an idea for how they could even provide a more immersive PvE experience.

The problem with wardecs

The wardec system was part of the original core design for EVE Online and has been in the game since day one, forming an important part of the original gameplay dynamic. Some corporations in those early days did actually war over unofficial territories in high-security space, and the earliest mercenary corps got their starts fighting other people’s wars for them. War declaration was simply a lightweight sandbox tool that players could use for whatever reasons they wanted, and it comes from a time when players didn’t even have structures such as starbases to fight over.

People used wars to settle grudges, muscle in on territory, to harm a business competitor, or just because they enjoyed PvP. It wasn’t long before the dominant users of the wardec system were de-facto pirates preying on traffic to and from the trade hub in Yulai, kept in check only by the fact that wars cost a lot of ISK to initiate. CCP has tweaked wardec costs multiple times over the years, but ISK has never really been an effective limiting factor in any EVE play style. Developers even overhauled the entire wardec system back in 2012’s Inferno expansion with the goal of forcing the attacker to commit to a war and giving the defender more options, but not much has really changed in how they’re used.

Responding to a wardec

When faced with the prospect of war, players have four main choices: Fight back, leave high-security space, quit their corporation, or stop playing. The defender should ideally want to fight back, but wardec corps overwhelmingly attack weaker targets and can just dock up if you actually show up with enough force to win a fight. That’s a massive shame, because the few wars I’ve been part of in which the enemy actively hunted for us in small groups produced some of the most fun PvP I’ve ever had. Wars can be amazing fun if both sides are willing to fight and have set engaging goals for the war.

Moving your corp out of high-security space can be a great experience and I’d advise everyone to do this eventually, but it’s a huge step for small organisations and newer players. Quitting your corporation will put you in an NPC corp where you’re immune to war declarations, but that’s hardly ideal when you want to play with your friends. Ultimately, the most effective response to an unwanted wardec is to stop playing in order to deny the attackers any targets for the duration of the war and hope it goes away, because there’s no actual mechanic to allow the defender to win.

The best advice right now is to avoid wardecs in the first place by doing all of your hauling and Jita shopping on alt-characters in NPC corps so they can’t be targeted, and social corps may actually be better off disbanding and just starting a chat channel instead. This means wardecs disproportionately hit newer players who won’t have a second character trained up for hauling and social corps that live primarily in highsec, which is obviously bad news for player retention.

Revamping wardecs for the era of citadels

I suggested a potential solution to the wardec problem back in 2012, and other players over the years have independently arrived at roughly the same idea: Tie the war to a structure. In order to declare war on a target corporation, you would have to build a structure in space to be the headquarters for the war. The war would proceed as it does now with both sides able to attack each other, but if the structure is destroyed then the war ends early. This would give the defender a strategic objective and a way to forcibly win the war, and means the attacker would have to actually fight or risk losing the structure.

A whole new type of structure just for highsec war probably wasn’t a realistic request back in 2012, but today we have versatile citadel structures that could easily fulfil this role. Small corporations have already planted hundreds of medium Astrahus citadels all across high-security space and around 75% of all production in EVE now takes place within player-built engineering complexes. When the new Upwell Refineries and moon mining gameplay goes live in the Winter expansion, players will also finally be able to claim moons using these structures and will have a huge incentive to war over them in low-security space — an official wardec would allow the attacker to also pursue their targets into highsec.

The future of highsec wars and PvPvE

While just tying war to a structure would be a huge step forward for the wardec problem, I personally also believe you shouldn’t be able to declare war on a corporation that has no structures in space. This would allow corporations to effectively opt out of the war system by just not deploying anything, but the truth is that players can already opt out of wardecs simply by dropping to NPC corps. Limiting wars to corps with structures would allow people to create non-military organisations that still have a collective identity. People should then be encouraged to build structures by making all of the major benefits of being in a player-run corp (such as low tax rates) accessible only to corps with a structure to use as its headquarters.

A wardec change could also provide additional scope for CCP’s new PvPvE feature, which was recently demonstrated on a massive scale when the new Blood Raider Sotiyo was spawned in nullsec and annihilated several alliance fleets. We know that the next step is to try to roll this feature out over highsec in a scaled-down manner, with NPCs planting structures in space that players can interact with or attack. As CCP works to continue this dynamic merge of PvP and PvE styles of gameplay, wouldn’t it be amazing if NPC factions could actually declare their own wars on player corporations? We might have to destroy their war headquarters to end the war, giving a PvE-based way of experiencing citadel warfare and helping to prepare small corps for PvP.

The war declaration system in EVE Online currently acts as a boring pay-to-grief system, with some alliances running hundreds of wars simultaneously and just camping trade routes. The defender currently has no way to actively win a war declared against them, and the attacker can simply choose not to fight if you show up in any kind of force.

Now that player-built structures are permeating all aspects of EVE and taking over industrial functions from starbases and NPC stations, perhaps it’s a good time to link them to the wardec system. Tying wars to a citadel would give the defenders in a war incentive to fight and a way to win the war, while potentially moving the fighting away from trade hubs.

There are currently no announced plans for revamping the wardec system and CCP’s plate looks pretty full over the Winter expansion period, but this age-old problem isn’t going to solve itself.

EVE Online expert Brendan ‘Nyphur’ Drain has been playing EVE for over a decade and writing the regular EVE Evolved column since 2008. The column covers everything from in-depth EVE guides and news breakdowns to game design discussions and opinion pieces. If there’s a topic you’d love to see covered, drop him a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com!


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